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Legacies Project Oral History: Joan Dickson

When: 2020

Joan Dickson was born in 1929 in Omaha, Nebraska. Although her father had a secure job with AT&T, she remembers the severe effects of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. After attending college in Iowa, she got married and moved to Waterloo, Iowa. She raised four children and was active in volunteering throughout her life. After divorcing her first husband in 1990, she remarried and moved to Michigan. She enjoys traveling and taking art classes.

Joan Dickson was interviewed as part of an internship at Applied Safety and Ergonomics in Ann Arbor in 2008 as part of the Legacies Project.


  • [00:00:09.30] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE] and I'm interviewing Joan Dickson. And this is July 16, 2008. Mrs. Dickson, to start off, we're going to have to ask you a few demographic questions so we can sort the data that we get from you. Please say and spell your name.
  • [00:00:23.46] JOAN DICKSON: Joan Dickson. J-O-A- N D-I- C-K- S- O-N.
  • [00:00:28.92] SPEAKER 1: And how does your birth date including the year?
  • [00:00:31.07] JOAN DICKSON: 7/27/29.
  • [00:00:34.31] SPEAKER 1: And how would you describe your race or ethnicity?
  • [00:00:37.16] JOAN DICKSON: Swedish and English.
  • [00:00:40.62] SPEAKER 1: Do you have a religious affiliation?
  • [00:00:42.38] JOAN DICKSON: Yes, right now-- it's changed through the years-- right now I belong to a Baptist Church.
  • [00:00:47.94] SPEAKER 1: All right. What is the highest level of formal education that you've completed?
  • [00:00:52.34] JOAN DICKSON: Two years of college.
  • [00:00:53.82] SPEAKER 1: All right. Did you attend any additional school beyond what you completed?
  • [00:00:58.88] JOAN DICKSON: No.
  • [00:00:59.75] SPEAKER 1: All right. And what is your marital status?
  • [00:01:02.87] JOAN DICKSON: I'm married.
  • [00:01:03.80] SPEAKER 1: All right. How many children do you have?
  • [00:01:06.62] JOAN DICKSON: I have four.
  • [00:01:07.83] SPEAKER 1: All right. And do you have any siblings?
  • [00:01:10.16] JOAN DICKSON: Yes, I have a sister and a brother.
  • [00:01:14.43] SPEAKER 1: What would you consider your primary occupation to have been?
  • [00:01:18.25] JOAN DICKSON: Volunteering.
  • [00:01:21.89] SPEAKER 1: Did you ever get paid for work outside of the home?
  • [00:01:24.65] JOAN DICKSON: No.
  • [00:01:25.43] SPEAKER 1: All right. And in that case, we are ready to start the first part of our interview. This part of the interview is about your childhood years up until when you graduated from high school. So to begin, where did you grow up? And what are your strongest memories of that place?
  • [00:01:43.81] JOAN DICKSON: I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.
  • [00:01:46.22] SPEAKER 1: Hm mm.
  • [00:01:47.08] JOAN DICKSON: And it was a great time to grow up because we were free to go on the bus or the streetcar or walk to the movies. So we didn't have to be supervised like the children today.
  • [00:02:03.61] SPEAKER 1: How did your family come to live there?
  • [00:02:05.98] JOAN DICKSON: My father worked for the AT&T, the telephone company in Omaha.
  • [00:02:11.23] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha. What was your house like?
  • [00:02:14.35] JOAN DICKSON: It was two story-- which one? I had lots of different ones.
  • [00:02:19.90] SPEAKER 1: You can tell us about all of them if you want.
  • [00:02:23.32] JOAN DICKSON: The first one I remember was out in the country. And we had an orchard in back. And my favorite memory of it was there was an old cook stove behind the garage. And I spent many hours making mud pies and cakes and cookies and things on that cook stove. And it was the Depression.
  • [00:02:52.36] And I don't know if you've ever lived in the Midwest, but the wind, and it was a dust bowl time. So in the summers, we would go down in the basement. There wasn't any air conditioning, of course, then. And there was a big block of ice in a big wash tub. And we'd put a fan on that. And that would be our air conditioning.
  • [00:03:18.09] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha. When you were growing up, how many people lived in the house with you? And what was their relationship to you?
  • [00:03:26.18] JOAN DICKSON: Just my parents and my brother and sister.
  • [00:03:29.03] SPEAKER 1: All right. What was your family like back then?
  • [00:03:35.87] JOAN DICKSON: Very typical. We only had one car. But there was a lot of public transportation, or we walked. Sundays you went to church, then you went for a ride in the car after church. We walked to school. We had an hour for lunch so we could walk home and walk back. We were just a very typical family in Omaha.
  • [00:04:14.19] SPEAKER 1: What sort of work did your mother do? I know your father worked for the telephone--
  • [00:04:18.00] JOAN DICKSON: My mother didn't work outside the home.
  • [00:04:20.15] SPEAKER 1: All right. Gotcha. How would you describe your relationship with each of your other family members?
  • [00:04:27.51] JOAN DICKSON: They were really good. I did a lot of things with my father because, apparently, my brother and sister didn't want to. My brother was only 18 months younger, so we were very close. My sister is three years older, and we had to always share a room. And we are so different that we were not really very close.
  • [00:04:51.87] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha. What was a typical day like for you when you were growing up?
  • [00:05:02.46] JOAN DICKSON: Get up and have breakfast and go to school. And come home for lunch. Go back to school. Come home. They didn't have organized sports then. Play out in the neighborhood. Be in before dark.
  • [00:05:18.99] I remember in the summers, we lived on kind of a hill, and when it would rain, we'd put on our bathing suits and lie in the gutter and let the warm rain wash over us. Played a lot of kickball. We played in the street.
  • [00:05:39.78] SPEAKER 1: Can you describe the chores or duties you have at the time?
  • [00:05:43.29] JOAN DICKSON: We took turns washing the dishes or drying the dishes or setting the table and taking care of our room.
  • [00:05:55.71] SPEAKER 1: What were your favorite things to do for fun?
  • [00:05:59.37] JOAN DICKSON: Play outside. I didn't like to read. And I didn't like dolls as a child. And I guess I was a tomboy.
  • [00:06:08.61] SPEAKER 1: Do you remember any interesting trends or fads or slang words from when you were growing up?
  • [00:06:19.65] JOAN DICKSON: Well, when I was in high school-- this still covers high school?
  • [00:06:22.80] SPEAKER 1: Yes.
  • [00:06:25.07] JOAN DICKSON: It was a great time because our high school dances, we had big bands. And a lot of the big bands came to the theaters. I remember I was in love with Lou Rawls. I sat in the theater in the front row and listened to him sing. And Spike Jones. And we had lots of entertainers that came to the Omaha theaters. And we had lots of dances with good bands. And it was a bobby socks era and the poodle skirt era. So it was just fun.
  • [00:07:05.18] SPEAKER 1: Did you have a poodle skirt?
  • [00:07:07.20] JOAN DICKSON: I had saddle shoes. And we did the dances where they throw you over their shoulder and between their legs and all that fun stuff.
  • [00:07:15.04] SPEAKER 1: That's very neat. Do you remember at that time if something were cool, you know, we use the word cool so much now-- did you guys have a different word for that?
  • [00:07:27.02] JOAN DICKSON: I don't think we had a lot of slang.
  • [00:07:29.00] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha.
  • [00:07:30.20] JOAN DICKSON: I don't think we did.
  • [00:07:33.09] SPEAKER 1: OK. Were there any special days or events or family traditions that you really enjoyed growing up?
  • [00:07:41.82] JOAN DICKSON: On Saturdays, I got a dime, walked to the theater, which was about a mile. I could get into the movie for a nickel. And I bought a Holloway's sucker. Do you know what those are?
  • [00:08:01.17] SPEAKER 1: No.
  • [00:08:01.43] JOAN DICKSON: Those long caramel suckers? And they'd last all afternoon. And there'd be shorts, yeah, short films, and then a couple of long features. And then walk home after 5 o'clock. It was the cheapest babysitter my mother ever had. But it was fun. All the kids did the same thing.
  • [00:08:21.46] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. When you think back of your childhood and your school years, what important social or historical events were taking place at the time? And how did those impact you?
  • [00:08:35.00] JOAN DICKSON: When I was maybe in kindergarten, we lived out in the country and Franklin Roosevelt came down our street in a parade. And I remember we all lined the street and waved flags. And then when Pearl Harbor-- the Sunday of Pearl Harbor-- I was in the basement listening to the radio when that came on. And that was probably the biggest-- the worst thing that happened, other than when Kennedy was assassinated. We were all sent home from school. And watching his funeral and watching the children. I mean, that was a terrible time.
  • [00:09:31.74] SPEAKER 1: All right. Well, this next chunk of questions deals with your working adult life or the time from when you graduated from high school up until, we'll say, when your husband retired.
  • [00:09:46.38] JOAN DICKSON: OK.
  • [00:09:47.16] SPEAKER 1: So after you finished high school, where did you live?
  • [00:09:51.66] JOAN DICKSON: I went to Coe College for a year in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And then I went to Iowa State at Ames, Iowa. And then I got married after two years and lived in Waterloo, Iowa. And then Mason City, Iowa. And then Clear Lake, Iowa.
  • [00:10:12.13] And then in 1995-- 1990, I was divorced. And in 1995, I met my present husband in New Orleans at an elder hostel. I don't know if you know what they are.
  • [00:10:33.54] SPEAKER 1: We've heard about them.
  • [00:10:34.68] JOAN DICKSON: And then we moved to Michigan. After we got married, we moved to Traverse City.
  • [00:10:41.51] SPEAKER 1: All right. So let's hear about your first husband. Where and when did you meet him?
  • [00:10:53.15] JOAN DICKSON: I met him in my freshman year of college. And then I married him after my sophomore year of college and moved to Waterloo, Iowa, where he worked for his father, who is a car dealer. And we had four children there in Waterloo. And then we moved to Mason City where he opened his own car dealership.
  • [00:11:21.32] SPEAKER 1: All right. And what was it like when you were dating?
  • [00:11:30.42] JOAN DICKSON: Oh, let me think. I know my mother always told me that when I liked a man, a male, I should always bring them home. So I would do that. And it was really good advice because sometimes you think you're in love with someone, and you bring them home to your family situation. And they just don't fit in at all. So you quick dump them. I mean, it ends.
  • [00:12:02.71] But that was really wonderful advice. But they really liked the man I married. And they kept promoting that.
  • [00:12:12.68] SPEAKER 1: And what did you and your friends do when you went on dates?
  • [00:12:16.92] JOAN DICKSON: We usually went dancing or to a movie.
  • [00:12:23.16] SPEAKER 1: Sounds like fun. So tell me about your engagement and your wedding?
  • [00:12:29.65] JOAN DICKSON: I was only 20. And I think, actually, my mother planned the whole thing. And I don't even remember a lot of it until I saw the pictures afterwards. You're just kind of in this love high, you know?
  • [00:12:50.53] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, yeah.
  • [00:12:52.51] JOAN DICKSON: You don't know that yet, but you will.
  • [00:12:56.76] SPEAKER 1: Let's see-- tell me about your children. And what life was like when you were young and still living at the house.
  • [00:13:04.10] JOAN DICKSON: Busy. I think after they've grown up you realize how tired you were because you're just busy all the time and planning so that you get everything done. And even though my husband sold cars and worked for his father in a dealership, I didn't have a car until after I had four children.
  • [00:13:33.91] So if I wanted to go to the grocery store, I had to take him to work and then go to the grocery store. And then go back and pick him up. And in those days, the car dealerships were open even on Sunday.
  • [00:13:47.15] SPEAKER 1: Oh, wow.
  • [00:13:47.98] JOAN DICKSON: So it was quite a few years after-- I don't know how old the children were when they finally passed a law they couldn't be open on Sunday. So he worked a lot of hours.
  • [00:14:00.11] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. All right. Tell me what your family enjoyed doing together when your kids were still at home.
  • [00:14:12.52] JOAN DICKSON: We did a lot of picnics. And my husband and their friends owned a piece of hunting property about an hour from where we lived. And we'd go up there with the other families and have lots of picnics up there. Iowa doesn't have the natural things that Michigan does. So we would go to Minnesota or Wisconsin to lakes in the summer vacationing. And then when Christmas came, we would take the children out to Colorado to ski.
  • [00:14:55.36] So we had to go someplace for those things. And in those days, the car business was very good. And there were a lot of trips that car dealers could win. And so the children were very fortunate to go to Hawaii three times. The whole families could go. And we were able to travel quite a bit.
  • [00:15:28.53] SPEAKER 1: So tell me about a typical day. What was a typical day like for you when your children were still at home?
  • [00:15:36.15] JOAN DICKSON: Getting them up. You know how boys are. They like to sleep. Getting them up and getting them breakfast. They were out for sports. So they wanted a big breakfast. They usually wanted hash brown potatoes, lot of hash brown potatoes and eggs in the morning. Cause it kind of would stick with them.
  • [00:16:01.08] And then getting them off to school. My youngest son did not like school. When he started kindergarten, he would leave and come home.
  • [00:16:14.91] SPEAKER 1: Oh my goodness.
  • [00:16:17.82] JOAN DICKSON: Until we got that figured out. They could walk to school or ride their bikes in those days. And my oldest son was able to drive before there were a lot of activities for children where they had to be driven someplace. So that was really great when he could drive and take them to things.
  • [00:16:44.05] One thing I always did is I planned dinner-- when they were real little and took naps, I would get dinner ready while they were napping and get everything I could done. And I still, to this day, wake up in the morning and think what am I going to have for dinner. Which you just have that so in your brain that you have to figure out what you're going to get accomplished and what you're going to feed the family. And I still do that when I don't have to.
  • [00:17:16.50] So I didn't have to help them a lot with homework in those days because I don't think they had that much homework. It was a much simpler life.
  • [00:17:30.92] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha. What were your personal favorite things to do for fun during that time?
  • [00:17:40.98] JOAN DICKSON: I've always loved to walk and garden and cook and entertain. Those are probably my favorites.
  • [00:17:54.50] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha. Do you remember when your kids were growing up any new interesting trends or fads or slang that they were going along with?
  • [00:18:11.50] JOAN DICKSON: No, things were a lot more structured. They didn't have that-- the clothing was pretty well-- they didn't wear way out clothes like the kids can do nowadays. They certainly didn't wear their pants halfway down. No, everything was pretty well structured-- schools, families. It's so different than today.
  • [00:18:43.55] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. Around what time were your kids in high school?
  • [00:18:53.91] JOAN DICKSON: My oldest son was in high school when the hippie age came and things started getting wilder. And a lot of the four point students in his class dropped out after high school. They just dropped out and wandered around for a few years. That's when drugs had started.
  • [00:19:27.82] But amazingly, most of them after so many years came back and went back to college and became professionals. But they just had those years when they had to find themselves, I guess.
  • [00:19:42.21] SPEAKER 1: Did that time affect your kids at all?
  • [00:19:44.58] JOAN DICKSON: Yeah, my oldest one, yeah. That was the worst period. The rest of them it wasn't. Maybe we became more aware. But I didn't have any problem after that, really.
  • [00:20:05.48] SPEAKER 1: Were there any special days or events or family traditions that you had when your children were at home?
  • [00:20:13.64] JOAN DICKSON: Well, the holidays, yes, and their birthdays. Christmas wasn't as extravagant as it is nowadays. We have 21 grandchildren between us. And when I see how much those children get for Christmas and for parties and birthday parties and things, it's just-- we didn't have that kind of money. And that wasn't possible. And the children didn't miss it because nobody else had that kind of things they have today.
  • [00:20:58.17] SPEAKER 1: All right. Well, I want you to tell me more about how you met your second husband. What exactly is a senior hostel?
  • [00:21:08.32] JOAN DICKSON: Elder hostel.
  • [00:21:08.90] SPEAKER 1: Elder hostel.
  • [00:21:10.44] JOAN DICKSON: Well, when I became single in '90, they are educational trips for people over 55. And when I was single, for the five years I was single, the children were gone. And I went to lots of elder hostels in different parts of that country.
  • [00:21:36.26] And it was a real adventure for me because I hadn't been free for so many years. The first one I went to I drove. And I bought my first car. And I'd always had a dealer car before. And I bought my first car. And I took off to the Teton mountains.
  • [00:22:05.41] And that was a real adventure because I had to go over some mountains when there was a snowstorm. And it was about hoofed animals in the Teton Valley. It was in October. And all the animals were coming down from the mountains for the winter. And so it was very, very exciting for me. And it was like I was free finally.
  • [00:22:32.08] Then I drove to see my son who lives in Montana. And then I drove home. And got home, I think, on Halloween. So I think I was gone at least three weeks.
  • [00:22:47.65] But the one thing I almost did was I had never taken care of a car before, and I would check my oil, I thought. I was checking the transmission oil. I just about burned up the motor.
  • [00:23:03.28] SPEAKER 1: Oh.
  • [00:23:04.72] JOAN DICKSON: I caught it just in time. Then I had to ask the man in the service station to show me how to put oil in the car.
  • [00:23:14.07] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [00:23:15.31] JOAN DICKSON: And he did. So now I know how to take care of a car.
  • [00:23:22.16] SPEAKER 1: So how did you end up meeting your second husband.
  • [00:23:24.85] JOAN DICKSON: Oh, I forgot. I went with another friend of mine, a lady friend of mine, and we went to New Orleans to an elder hostel. And he happened to be there. And we exchanged letters and exchanged visits. And that's how I met him.
  • [00:23:46.33] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha. When you think back on the time when your children were living at home and you were taking care of them, what important social or historical events were taking place then? And how did they impact your family?
  • [00:24:02.90] JOAN DICKSON: Oh, boy. I think maybe when the two older boys were little, there was a-- oh, boy, which war? Vietnam War? I'm not real good on dates.
  • [00:24:21.66] SPEAKER 1: Korean War maybe?
  • [00:24:22.17] JOAN DICKSON: Korean War? My husband joined the National Guard because if you had children you weren't likely to be called into the service. And then when my oldest son was a senior, they had the draft numbers. And it was the Vietnam War. And of course, he was very opposed to being a soldier. But fortunately, he drew a very high number and wasn't called into the service.
  • [00:25:02.42] He said if he had been, he would've gone to Canada. It was a difficult time because the young boys were drafted if they had a low number.
  • [00:25:17.13] SPEAKER 1: All right. So this next set of questions covers the time span from when your kids left the house up until now.
  • [00:25:26.16] JOAN DICKSON: OK.
  • [00:25:27.68] SPEAKER 1: So tell me about any moves that you made from the time when your kids left home up until when you came to Glacier Hills.
  • [00:25:43.27] JOAN DICKSON: OK. Well, right before the youngest ones left home, I talked my husband into buying a house on a lake. They're only a couple lakes in Iowa. And there was one nine miles away from where we lived. And then we moved over there. And the family did a lot of sailing.
  • [00:26:10.41] But then after the children were gone, it was an old house and everything leaked. So we tore the house down and built a new one there. So that was kind of exciting to have a new house on the lake, which was wonderful to live on water. I miss it.
  • [00:26:32.63] Now, what did you ask me? What else? I stayed there on the lake until I moved to Traverse City after I married Jerry. And we looked down on Lake Michigan. And I could kayak. I love to kayak. And I could kayak on Lake Michigan.
  • [00:26:55.49] And now, I can kayak on the Huron River.
  • [00:26:58.09] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [00:26:59.35] JOAN DICKSON: And the only reason we decided to leave up north was because we had this huge house in the woods. And we had a driveway that was like a luge straight down. And Traverse City gets lots of snow and ice. And the driveway would ice up in the winter. And there were some times when I couldn't go down for three days because it was icy.
  • [00:27:26.26] And after seven years up there, the driveway was kind of getting to my husband. And I'd gone off of the side of it twice. And somebody came and wanted to buy our house. And when they offer you your price, you kind of have to say, OK.
  • [00:27:54.06] And my husband had graduated from the university here. And his children were within an hour. And he loves sports. So we drove here and looked at Glacier Hills. And picked out a villa and moved here.
  • [00:28:14.23] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha. Do you hope to live here for the rest of your life?
  • [00:28:19.04] JOAN DICKSON: Yes. The main thing is-- my children live in Iowa and Montana. And here, everything, they know I'm taken care of no matter what happens to me, that I will be taken care of. And they don't have to worry about me. So that's kind of nice for them and nice for me.
  • [00:28:43.91] SPEAKER 1: How did life change for you after your kids left home?
  • [00:28:48.29] JOAN DICKSON: Ew. You are free. You are not tied down like you were. You can do some things you've been wanting to do. I did a lot of volunteer work while they were home, but I could do more. And I could take some art classes and some ceramic classes and travel.
  • [00:29:17.36] It's a whole different stage of life. There are a lot of different stages. And that's kind of a fun one.
  • [00:29:22.71] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. What is a typical day like in your life currently?
  • [00:29:29.72] JOAN DICKSON: Now? Oh, well, let's see. I like to get up and read the paper and drink coffee by myself. We can come up here for breakfast, but I don't like to do that because I'm not that social in the morning. I want to drink my coffee and read my paper and get on the internet and read my email.
  • [00:29:54.88] And with a villa, we don't have a lot of work we have to do inside. Doesn't take long to clean it. Although as you get older, you get more careless.
  • [00:30:10.54] I belong to enough organizations that I'm busy. And there's so much that goes on here and activities that the days go by very fast. And I can read in the evening. I don't know. It's a very pleasant life. We're very spoiled.
  • [00:30:34.94] SPEAKER 1: What does your family like to do together currently?
  • [00:30:38.95] JOAN DICKSON: Jerry and I you mean?
  • [00:30:40.51] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. Or your kids, grandkids, everybody.
  • [00:30:42.49] JOAN DICKSON: Oh, I only get back to see my kids twice a year. And that's not enough, but that's the way it is right now. Jerry and I do quite a bit of traveling. And his family are close enough that we get together with them quite often, or they come here.
  • [00:31:12.89] Jerry's very busy going to sports events with his daughter. And I'm signed up for the symphony and a lot of things down at the Hill and the Power Center. So that keeps you busy.
  • [00:31:29.72] SPEAKER 1: What are your personal favorite things to do for fun?
  • [00:31:35.72] JOAN DICKSON: Go to concerts and read.
  • [00:31:40.19] SPEAKER 1: Have you noticed any unique social customs or anything like that since you moved here to Glacier Hills? Like among the residents.
  • [00:31:52.05] JOAN DICKSON: We don't spend our days up here like a lot of-- you know, we're not up here. We're more independent living in a villa. Because I'm not quite ready to live-- when I come up here for something, they'll say, well, what's the weather like because a lot of them never go outside. Or they're older, and you know, they're pretty much confined to this building.
  • [00:32:16.11] So the people here have wonderful histories. And they're very lovely people. The thing I like about Ann Arbor is I've never lived in a city as diverse as Ann Arbor is. And I love all the different ethnic people that live here and being able to have contact with them is really wonderful for me.
  • [00:32:50.36] SPEAKER 1: Are there any special days or events or family traditions that you enjoy at this stage in your life?
  • [00:32:58.72] JOAN DICKSON: Well, we always have 4th of July up north. And we have Christmas with Jerry's big family, which there are probably at least 24 of us. We have had Christmas Eve here in the dining room three times.
  • [00:33:21.03] Next year, I'm going to be 80. And I'm going to have a family reunion with my family. I'm trying to find a place. It's not easy. So it'll be in the Midwest. So that'll be fun.
  • [00:33:36.52] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. When you think back the period of your life after your kids left the house up until now, what important social or historical events were happening then and how did those impact you?
  • [00:33:59.94] JOAN DICKSON: You mean all the tragedies that have happened?
  • [00:34:04.22] SPEAKER 1: Or any kind of social movements.
  • [00:34:06.90] JOAN DICKSON: Social events like what? You mean how things have changed?
  • [00:34:19.49] SPEAKER 1: That will work too.
  • [00:34:20.79] JOAN DICKSON: OK. I really feel sorry for the young people today because they are so structured. And I walk a lot. And I notice they are either driven to school or their parents walk them to school and come pick them up. And they just aren't free to play.
  • [00:34:46.61] The society's all changed to-- I mean, around here anyway and in affluent areas-- to children are structured so much. Now, I don't know whether it's good or not. And there's so many organized sports and activities. But to me, the sad thing is nowadays they have to pay for a lot of those shoes and sport outfits and fees.
  • [00:35:22.05] And I don't think the people that have very low incomes can afford to have their children in a lot of those things. And I've noticed with some of my grandchildren that don't have a lot of money in their family that when they got to high school, they would try to enter into a dance team or a band or a chorus. And because they hadn't started out in grade school and gone through all the steps, they didn't let them in. And I think that's kind of sad.
  • [00:36:03.68] SPEAKER 1: When you think back on your entire life, what social or historical event, the single one that impacted you the most, what would that be?
  • [00:36:17.16] JOAN DICKSON: Historical event?
  • [00:36:18.97] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [00:36:25.37] JOAN DICKSON: Well, of course, it'd be Pearl Harbor and the war. I mean, and then the assassinations-- well, just the wars.
  • [00:36:38.10] SPEAKER 1: How did that impact you?
  • [00:36:40.75] JOAN DICKSON: Well, it makes you wish they didn't happen. I wish we could correct things so that we could all live together in peace.
  • [00:37:01.47] SPEAKER 1: When you think back over your entire life, what are you the most proud of?
  • [00:37:13.15] JOAN DICKSON: Well, I think my daughter told me one time. She graduated from college and is a nurse at the University of Iowa. And she said, mother, although you didn't graduate from college, you've educated yourself and done so many things that you should be very proud. So I thought that was very nice.
  • [00:37:42.27] SPEAKER 1: What would you say has changed the most from the time you were my age until now?
  • [00:37:51.14] JOAN DICKSON: The world's so fast and computers and cell phones. And people nowadays want everything, and they want it right now. And right now, though, we're having some hard times. I think it's kind of good for people because they've gotten very spoiled.
  • [00:38:14.55] I noticed that in my grandchildren. They have so much. They want so much. And I think when they get out in the real world after college, they're going to have a big education because life isn't that way, that they can have everything they want when they want it. They've been pretty spoiled.
  • [00:38:42.05] SPEAKER 1: What advice would you give to my generation?
  • [00:38:46.78] JOAN DICKSON: Make sure you have the ability to take care of yourself. I think the biggest thing I am sorry about in my life is that I didn't finish college. Make sure you have an education. This is for women. Make sure you have an education so that you could take care of yourself if you need to.
  • [00:39:13.54] And there's so many opportunities out there. And there's plenty of time in life for marriage and children. But you never know what will happen. So you want to be able to take care of yourself.
  • [00:39:28.21] SPEAKER 1: Is there anything else you'd like to add that I haven't talked about?
  • [00:39:32.97] JOAN DICKSON: No, I think that's been very nice.
  • [00:39:35.68] SPEAKER 1: All right.
  • [00:39:37.55] CREW: We're out of tape.
  • [00:39:38.84] SPEAKER 1: OK. All right. So Mrs. Dickson, there are just a few other things that I'd really like to hear about.
  • [00:39:45.82] JOAN DICKSON: All right.
  • [00:39:46.57] SPEAKER 1: You said you grew up during the Dust Bowl?
  • [00:39:49.61] JOAN DICKSON: Hm mm.
  • [00:39:50.41] SPEAKER 1: Can you tell me more about what the Dust Bowl was like?
  • [00:39:53.97] JOAN DICKSON: Ooh, hot. No rain, drought. And it took all of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, the Dakotas. The wind blows all the time. That's the one thing I'm glad to be away from because Michigan doesn't have all that wind. And we would have to have rags in the window sills to keep the dust out. A lot of people would have to wear masks. There just wasn't any rain. The farmers-- you know, it was a terrible time.
  • [00:40:34.77] SPEAKER 1: What about the Depression? How did that affect your life?
  • [00:40:37.20] JOAN DICKSON: Well, that was the Depression time too.
  • [00:40:38.56] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, yeah.
  • [00:40:40.26] JOAN DICKSON: And my family were very fortunate because my father always had a job. So as a child, I didn't really understand much about the Depression. You know, as a child you're just a child. You don't really get into that. And our family was fortunate.
  • [00:41:09.09] SPEAKER 1: How about World War II, did that affect you or any of your friends personally or did you just know it was going on?
  • [00:41:18.99] JOAN DICKSON: It affected my sister because her husband graduated from West Point, and he was a career Army man. And he was in the Second World War, and then he was in the Korean War, and then he was in the Vietnam War. And when you have been in that many wars, it does something to you. Even one war will do something to you.
  • [00:41:49.73] And he became an alcoholic. And they were divorced. But it was a very difficult time for their family and their children. Wars do lots of bad things to people.
  • [00:42:08.31] SPEAKER 1: I'd also like to hear about your story as a woman who's lived over these past 80 years. Did a lot of your friends finish college?
  • [00:42:26.65] JOAN DICKSON: You know, some of them did and some of them didn't. But we didn't have careers then like you have now. You could be a teacher or a nurse. And you did what your father told you to do. And you never questioned them.
  • [00:42:44.44] We could not go to movies on Sundays. I was not to ever date a Jewish boy or a Catholic Boy. There were a lot of prejudices then. That didn't mean I didn't.
  • [00:43:04.16] He picked the college I went to, Coe College, which is a small private school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was much smaller than my high school. I went to a big high school in Omaha. And I didn't like it at all.
  • [00:43:23.94] I had no choice in where I went to school my freshman year. Then I transferred the second year to Iowa State, which was a large university, and I really liked it there. But I was very immature because we didn't have a chance to become mature. Well, you aren't very mature when you're in college. You think you are. You think you are.
  • [00:43:52.43] So it was a different time. And the women didn't have all those opportunities that you have now.
  • [00:44:02.75] SPEAKER 1: Did you notice any other forms of discrimination against women at the time?
  • [00:44:11.22] JOAN DICKSON: In my high school-- this will interest you-- there were boys steps and girls steps.
  • [00:44:15.51] SPEAKER 1: Really?
  • [00:44:16.56] JOAN DICKSON: And the restrooms were on the landings. So we didn't go up and down the same steps as the boys. And the boys would take some of the younger boys, you know they hadn't grown, the short ones, and lock them in lockers that were up on the landings.
  • [00:44:38.61] Discrimination. Well, they weren't the girls sports teams there are now. I don't think I ever felt discriminated against. We had different races in the high school I went to. And so I never felt I was not-- I mean, I had African-American friends and Mexican friends because I was in a big high school in a big city.
  • [00:45:13.50] SPEAKER 1: What extracurricular activities did the school provide for girls?
  • [00:45:18.69] JOAN DICKSON: We had to learn how to swim before we could graduate, which was wonderful. I think that was it. And I think it was during school. It wasn't after school.
  • [00:45:32.49] But we had a wonderful indoor ice skating in Omaha. And I would go there every Saturday and skate. And you could take lessons. We had a wonderful swimming pools. There was a time when the polio came around. And a couple of summers we were pretty well restricted at home because our parents were afraid we'd get polio. And a lot of my friends did. So that was kind of serious time.
  • [00:46:06.17] SPEAKER 1: What do you remember about girdles?
  • [00:46:08.58] JOAN DICKSON: Oh, they were awful.
  • [00:46:13.86] SPEAKER 1: Did everybody wear one?
  • [00:46:15.45] JOAN DICKSON: Yeah. Well, not in high school. In high school we probably wore-- what do you call those things with just the straps for your hose?
  • [00:46:24.64] SPEAKER 1: Oh, garter belts.
  • [00:46:25.28] JOAN DICKSON: Garter belts.
  • [00:46:26.24] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [00:46:27.51] JOAN DICKSON: But when girdles went out, and pantyhose came in, I think everybody gave up their girdles. And they're not going to go back to them.
  • [00:46:36.34] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. Yeah.
  • [00:46:37.35] JOAN DICKSON: They were awful.
  • [00:46:39.93] SPEAKER 1: So who wore girdles?
  • [00:46:41.63] JOAN DICKSON: Everybody. Well, not in high school.
  • [00:46:44.14] SPEAKER 1: So like college and beyond?
  • [00:46:47.00] JOAN DICKSON: Yeah.
  • [00:46:47.41] SPEAKER 1: When you graduated from high school, go buy a girdle. Oh, man.
  • [00:46:51.90] JOAN DICKSON: Awful.
  • [00:46:52.77] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, yeah.
  • [00:46:54.77] JOAN DICKSON: Awful. But then, see we didn't have pantyhose till I was probably in college.
  • [00:47:00.75] SPEAKER 1: Well, and now none of my friends wear pantyhose.
  • [00:47:04.28] JOAN DICKSON: You know, now the girls just go bare-legged, right?
  • [00:47:07.23] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, yeah.
  • [00:47:08.09] JOAN DICKSON: Yeah.
  • [00:47:09.68] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. All right. Well, I think those are really all the questions I had.
  • [00:47:14.35] JOAN DICKSON: All right.
  • [00:47:15.07] SPEAKER 1: Did you have any questions?
  • [00:47:15.92] CREW: Nope. No, thanks. I'm not very good on the women's fashion.
  • [00:47:20.34] JOAN DICKSON: You're not, huh? You're hearing more than you want to hear, right?
  • [00:47:23.03] CREW: That's right.
  • [00:47:26.33] SPEAKER 1: All right. I think we're done then.
  • [00:47:27.65] JOAN DICKSON: OK.
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Coe College
Iowa State University
Grand Teton National Park
Glacier Hills Retirement Center
Volunteers & Volunteering
Dust Bowl
Great Depression
Oral Histories
Legacies Project
Joan Dickson
Jerry Dickson
Omaha NE
Waterloo IA
Traverse City